Award for Distinguished Scholarship

Mark B. Green, Professor of Hydrology 

John Anderson photo.

Motivated by the desire to understand society’s basic questions about water, Mark Green entered a doctoral program at the University of Minnesota and then accepted post-doctoral research positions at the University of New Hampshire and City College of New York before joining the graduate faculty in the Center for the Environment and the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at Plymouth State University in 2009.

Last year, he traveled to Japan as a Fulbright researcher. With Japanese colleagues, Green studied hydrologic data from US and Japanese forests to understand how forests and hydrologic function recover from disturbance. “Our forests and those in Japan have more similarities than differences,” Green says. “Our research considered why certain landscapes recover more quickly than others after a major event, which for us includes a history of logging and weather disasters like the Hurricane of 1938, and for the Japanese means typhoons and landslides.”

The Fulbright experience was an opportunity to build another bridge, this time to link cultures and advance research; this year, one of Green’s Japanese colleagues will travel to Plymouth to continue the work. “Gaining an understanding of the larger questions about human-water-environmental interactions goes far beyond Plymouth and even the US,” Green concludes. “Working collaboratively, we have a valuable opportunity to find answers that can apply around the world.”

At PSU, Green fulfills a dual role teaching graduate-level classes and acting as a research hydrologist at the Northern Forest Research Station. This unique combination of responsibilities positions Green as a “bridge,” connecting and engaging students in his work. “There are several dimensions to my research,” Green says, “but the primary focus is on understanding how forests and water impact each other. For example, in research to assess the sensitivity of forests to environmental impacts, we’ve studied the history of acid rain in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Then, we’ve taken it a step further to consider not just what acid rain has meant for the ecosystem, but how it has impacted forest hydrology.”

Much of Green’s research integrates environmental history, and where there are studies conducted over time, there are massive amounts of data to analyze. In fact, Green is recognized as a highly skilled data analyst, though for him, understanding what’s happening in the field must come first. “My first goal is to help students understand how hydrology and water science work on the ground,” Green notes. “Before a student can meaningfully delve into the theoretical or computational aspects of a research question, they must see first-hand the diversity of the landscape and how this might influence water.  For every data point, I want students to have insight into how it was developed.”

A case in point is a water-quality test program designed to understand the interactions between human, ecological, and climate systems. Green leads PSU’s efforts for the program, which receives funding from New Hampshire’s EPSCoR grant. His research brings together researchers and students from institutions statewide and hundreds of citizen scientists who maintain water-quality sensors around the state. “These sensors take measurements every 15 minutes,” Green explains. “Students are able to talk to people in the field about changing water conditions, and then think about what they’ve seen and heard as they analyze a statewide data set with millions of data points. It’s a novel research project and a phenomenal opportunity for students and researchers alike.”

Donna Eason ’85

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